Archive for the ‘Consumer activism’ Category

My letter to the FCC about the open internet proposal

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

To: openinternet@fcc.gov
Subject: Internet must remain open

To the commissioners:

Those who object to regulating internet service providers to ensure an open internet, as the FCC is currently proposing to do, adhere to the rigid political philosophy that regulation, by definition, stifles competition, innovation, growth, etc.

However, this philosophy is only even theoretically true when there is real competition and an even playing field. Unfortunately, the plain fact of the matter is that when it comes to internet service, far too many consumers don’t benefit from either real competition or an even playing field. In those circumstances, not only does regulation not stifle growth, regulation is essential for growth.

More than 30% of Americans live in areas where internet service is a monopoly. This problem is getting worse, not better, as cable companies continue to merge, leading to fewer competitors with iron-fisted control over larger and larger swaths of territory. Allowing the massive internet providers to game the system even further by charging fees for better access to their networks, or by charging their customers for access to content from outside their network, e.g., by introducing bandwidth caps that exclude content produced by the internet provider, will cause consumers to be screwed over even more than they already are. How anyone can suggest otherwise for a straight face is incomprehensible.

Those who oppose classification of the internet as a Title II common carrier make hyperbolic references to how “backwards” Title II regulations and how we need to look toward the future rather than the past. The fact of the matter is that the strict regulations placed for many years on POTS providers are the only thing that ensured that every person in America has access to telephone service. That is exactly what is needed for internet service, which is why it should be classified as a Title II common carrier and aggressively regulated to bring fast internet to everyone, everywhere in the United States.

Those who claim that such regulation will force the large internet providers to raise their rates are blowing smoke. Comcast, for example, is raking in huge profits, literally at the expense of consumers, by providing legendarily poor service and charging ridiculously high prices. If its prices were regulated, as telephone prices were for many years, it would still make a profit, it just wouldn’t be able to fleece consumers quite as much as it can now.

Congress is completely dysfunctional and is almost completely incapable of passing any substantive consumer-protection legislation. If that means it falls on the FCC to figure out how to reinterpret the laws Congress has already passed to allow it to enact meaningful open-internet regulations that will protect consumers, then so be it. Godspeed and get to work.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Kamens

Dear T-Mobile, thanks for wasting my time!

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Dear T-Mobile,

In my life, I am blessed in many ways. I have a wonderful family; I am part of several great communities; I have a good job I love with people I respect and learn from every day; I have a roof over my head and enough food to eat.

However, like many other people, the thing that is in shortest supply in my life is time. And the time I can’t afford most of all, the time that drives me crazier than anything else in my life, is the time I am forced to waste dealing with other people’s incompetence. And this is why I am writing to you today to register two complaints, one general and one painfully specific.

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“Beantown AutoMobile Detailing” vandalizes my car, refuses to clean it up

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

On Wednesday night, April 16, 2014, after our minivan sat idle for two days while we celebrated the beginning of the holiday of Passover, I went out to run an errand and found a sodden, disintegrating advertisement from “Beantown AutoMobile [sic] Detailing” stuck between the driver’s side window and its lower rubber gasket. When I removed the ad, it unfortunately left a good chunk of itself behind, steadfastly stuck to the window:

IMG_20140416_202430

It had rained during the holiday, and the rain dissolved the ad, and then the rain dried, and what you see above was the result.

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Why you still shouldn’t use Vanguard Realty

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

For many years, I’ve been working assiduously to rid my (postal) mailbox of junk mail. The ongoing damage to the environment caused by the many tons of junk mail sent every day to people who don’t even bother to look at it is offensive, and want nothing to do with it.

I wrote back in 2011 about Frank Shaw at Vanguard Realty, a local Realtor who simply refused, despite my repeated requests, to stop sending me junk mail.

Since then, I’ve made two additional requests to other employees of the office to stop sending me junk mail, but it has not helped — I’ve received at least eight more mailings from Vanguard Realty, the most recent one just yesterday. (That most recent mailing, incidentally, engaged in the time-honored junk-mailer tradition of using a completely blank envelope with no return address, a transparent attempt to trick the recipient into opening something that they would otherwise throw away unopened.)

These mailings aren’t just paper. Mr. Shaw insists on sending me refrigerator magnets once or twice a year with the Patriots or Red Sox season schedule on them. Those is even worse for the environment than paper junk mail, and anybody who knows me knows that I have absolutely no use for them.

I’ve received junk mail from numerous other real-estate agents over the years, and most of them have been both willing and able to stop sending it when asked. Vanguard Realty’s failure to do so is indicative of either incompetence or a marked lack of respect for the people from whose business they wish to profit. Therefore, if you’re looking for a real-estate agent, I reiterate the recommendation I posted in 2001 that you choose someone else.

An open letter to the owner of The Chubby Chickpea Food Truck

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Dear Avi,

“You know what the great thing is about owning your own business? You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”

That’s what you told me this morning when your food truck arrived 10 minutes past its scheduled opening time and still hadn’t opened 10 minutes after that. That’s what you told me after I waited for you in 10-degree weather for 20 minutes, until my gloved fingers had lost all feeling. That’s what you told me when I commented to you, “You know, when it’s this cold, you really have to be here on time.”

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Globe Direct: Hey Boston, here’s 34 tons of trash per week on us!

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

What would you say if I told you that there’s a Boston business that adds more than 34 tons per week of trash to the City of Boston’s waste stream*, trash that the residents of Boston end up paying to dispose of to the tune of >$100,000 per year**? What would you say if I then told you that the business that does this has managed to figure out how to get other businesses to pay for it, ripping them off in the process?

Ladies and gentlemen of Boston, say hello to “Globe Direct in association with RedPlum”!

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Boston Herald rude sales people won’t leave us alone

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
To: Boston Herald home delivery department
Subject: Rude sales call from Boston Herald

My wife and I (you can find us in your records under our home phone number [elided]) are no longer Boston Herald subscribers. We currently have no desire to resume our subscription. Since we canceled our subscription, your sales department has called us several times trying to get us to resume. This needs to stop. The most recent call, a few minutes ago, was incredibly rude.

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Another reminder of why I so “love” Paychex

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Because I am a boring old fuddy-duddy, I was spending the minutes leading up to the New Year trying to reconcile my 2013 medical flexible spending account (FSA), i.e., to match up the FSA transactions listed on the Paychex web site with those listed in my financial management software and confirm that there were no incorrect transactions in either location.

Alas, after several passes through the transactions, there were, in fact, several that I couldn’t reconcile, and even taking those into account, the reconciled balances were not matching up. However, rather than make yet another pass at trying to make them come out even, I decided to go watch the ball drop with my kids.

When I came back to my office, I had been logged out of the Paychex web site due to inactivity, and the transaction history page I’d been looking at was wiped clean. It wasn’t even available in my browser cache, because the Paychex web site is *shudder* entirely implemented as a Flash application. “No problem,” I said to myself. “I’ll just log back in and bring up the data again.”

Alas, when I logged in, I discovered that the web site had rolled over to my 2014 FSA, and none of the data from the prior year was accessible any longer on the site. (more…)

Update on the Macular Degeneration Association

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Das Keyboard comes from behind for the win

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

I recently received a package from Metadot, the creators of Das Keyboard. It contained:

T-shirt, magnet, note pads, note of apology, daskeyboard Space Pen, daskeyboard pens

Here’s what the enclosed note says:

Jonathan, We're sorry we messed up! Please accept these goodies as our thank you for being honest and patient with us. Das Keyboard

The day before, I’d received another package from them, containing a brand new Das Keyboard.

From the “We’re sorry we messed up!” you might suspect that there’s a less positive back story leading up to the seemingly happy ending, and you’d be correct. But I told the ending first for one simple reason: what Metadot did at the end made up for everything that came before, in a way that most companies nowadays just don’t seem to understand. Yes, they made a mistake (quite a few of them, actually), but they acknowledged and apologized for it, they didn’t make excuses, they fixed it, and they went the extra mile to show they were sorry.

Here’s the whole, long story… (more…)